See if this sounds familiar: you've just adopted your first pet from the nearest shelter and are super excited to get things rolling for your latest addition to the family. You've already set up the basic essentials for a warm and welcoming home for your pet. All that remains on your to-do list is getting pet food, which you have obviously saved as the last assignment to get on to because surprise, surprise: you haven't got a clue on what kind of pet food to get for your new friend!
With a sigh of resignation, you pull out your phone, open up one of many online pet stores, and begin browsing the pet food catalogue. Hours pass, and your thumb starts to hurt from the constant dragging of the screen through an endless list of products, each with a different set of selling propositions, ingredients and features that are supposedly catered to your pet. Decision paralysis slowly seeps into your mind, and you eventually buckle to either procrastination, or making sub-optimal decisions that will either turn your pet away from the food or make them unwell.
If you've felt overwhelmed by the list of ingredients on the back of your pet's food packaging like the above scenario, you're not alone. With all the options available on the market, it is no easy task to determine the best food for your pet. Here's what you should look out for:
The source of protein may come from various poultry such as chicken, venison, beef, fish, or rabbit. They are usually listed in two ways: fresh meat and meat meal.
Owners should always examine the list carefully to ensure that the fresh meat is mentioned by name. For instance, a brand that declares its primary ingredient as “chicken meat” is far more trustworthy than one that just lists as “meat.”
Meat meal is constituted of ground up animal by-products, which are parts not used for human consumption, such as the heart, liver, feet, etc. There is nothing wrong with by-products, but ideally the packet should be clear about which animal the “meal” comes from.
Carbohydrates can be derived from grains and vegetables.
Grains should be a smaller part of your pet's diet than animal protein. Rice, soy, wheat, oats, and corn are all used to help with digestion, while providing a source of carbohydrates as well as certain types of proteins. It’s preferable if the product uses brown rice, rather than corn or soy, since the latter can be used as a filler of no nutritional value.
While vegetables are a good source of energy, they should be listed much lower on the ingredient chart. Owners have to understand that cats and dogs require a higher proportion of animal proteins than humans do, and cannot maintain a healthy diet on vegetables alone.
Instead, a portion of vegetables in your pet’s food provides fiber, omega 6, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Fruits are also a good source of fiber, but should be listed low on the chart. These are minor ingredients meant to accentuate the digestibility of the food.
This is an ingredient that most pet owners are wary of. However, any balanced diet requires a certain amount of fat content to be well-balanced. Furthermore, it adds taste to the food.
Avoid foods that list just “animal fat” instead of a named poultry fat. A generic, unnamed fat can easily mean that cooking oil has been included in the food. Do look out for Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids - they are present only in especially high quality food.
Minerals & vitamin supplements
Proteins, fruits, vegetables and grains may lose important nutrients during the process of manufacturing, which is why mineral and vitamin supplements are added to the food to give your pet a well rounded meal.
Preservatives are required in packaged food in order for them to have a long shelf life. They help maintain the taste and quality of the food over time.
Artificial preservatives are the norm in standard pet food, but more discerning owners can purchase more expensive brands that only use natural preservatives.
Some brands use coloring, while others avoid it. The color of the food does not hold any benefits to your pet. Manufacturers color their products to make it look more appetizing or healthy to the owners. It’s best to find brands that avoid using artificial coloring in pet food.
If you feed home-cooked meal, you should still follow the nutritional content of these products. Here is a tip: Include a protein-rich meat in your recipe, augment it with natural sources for carbohydrates and fibers, and ensure that your pet is getting sufficient omega 3 and 6 fatty acids!
Grain-free or not?
A grain-free diet can benefit dogs and cats that suffer form diabetes and cancer. Additionally, pets that consume grain-free diets usually have more energy and a better muscle tone. Most vets recommend that you provide grain-free food to pregnant mothers as they contain contain extra proteins and nutrients. However, you must avoid giving raw food to pets that are old or have limited mobility as they may gain weight easily.
Another important aspect to keep in mind when buying grain-free is that they tend to be more expensive compared to foods that contain grains. Before you decide on what food is best for your pet, evaluate the needs of your fur baby. If you are unable to decide what to feed your pet, it is best that you consult a vet. There are many well-known manufacturers that make great grain-free foods for pets, and many of them can be found on our online store here.
With this guide, you should now have a better idea on how to choose the optimal pet food for your fur kids. Put your newfound knowledge to the test with Perromart's catalogue of some of the best dog food and best cat food in the market right now!